NEW DELHI, Sept 28 (Reuters) - India's Prime Minister
Narendra Modi on Tuesday launched an array of new high-yielding
crop varieties, including herbicide-tolerant rice that can be
directly sown into the soil, cutting expenditure on water and
In India, the world's biggest rice exporter, the
conventional method of rice cultivation requires farmers to sow
seeds in nurseries and then wait for 20 to 30 days before
manually transplanting the seedlings into plantation fields that
are ankle-deep in water.
With the new seed varieties, developed by the state-run
Indian Agricultural Research Institute, farmers only need to
irrigate the field once to moisten the soil before sowing the
The conventional cultivation method also uses a lot of water
to control weeds as herbicides are costly and often do not
distinguish between the rice and the unwanted vegetation.
Government scientists said the new rice varieties contain a
gene that would allow farmers to spray a common, inexpensive
herbicide without worrying about any side effects.
"Our focus is very high on more nutritious seeds, that can
be adopted to new conditions, especially in changing climates,"
Water conservation is likely to be the main attraction of
the new rice varieties in India, where farmers rely heavily on
The conventional method uses 3,000 to 5,000 liters of water
to produce 1 kg of rice. The new varieties could cut water use
by at least 50% to 60%, farmers and government officials say.
"For farmers like us, the main concern was the management of
weeds, and the new varieties take care of that concern," said
Ravindra Kajal, who grows rice on his 9-acre (3.6-hectare) plot
in the northern state of Haryana.
India is also the world's biggest rice producer after China.
(Reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj. Editing by Jane Merriman)